A Dialog with the Animated Cosmos: Dylan Hoffman, Ph.D., on Psychedelics and Psyche

“Psychedelics and Depth Psychology: Treatment and Transformation in an Animated Cosmos” is a Graduate Certificate in Psychedelics and Depth Psychology that will be offered online by Pacifica Extension and International Studies over 13 weeks, with Dylan Hoffman being one of the instructors. The course will introduce essential topics in the current medical/psychiatric model of treatment and research as well as a deep dive into the indigenous history of these medicines, their cultural significance, and original worldview of the cosmos that challenges current Western societal perspectives. It will be held June 5, 2024 – August 28th, 2024. Register now! 

Angela Borda: Pacifica’s “Individuation and Psychedelics Conversations with Jungian Analysts” conference in December was very well attended and produced a lot of reactions and thought and interest in our attendees and faculty. Did this course grow out of that conference? What questions were raised there that might be fruitfully explored in this certificate?

Dylan Hoffman: Yes, the certificate is an outgrowth of conversations that came from the conference. We listened for what showed up in the presentations and responses to them during the conference. We’re trying to speak to what we think is a unique approach that Pacifica and depth psychology, in relationship with indigenous communities and perspectives, can bring more fully into the psychedelic domain.

Angela: You will be providing Week 10’s lecture, “Jung, Depth Psychology and Psychedelics.” How does Depth Psychology move past Jung’s “cautionary stance” on psychedelics, or does it?

Dylan: Jung’s cautionary stance toward psychoactive substances lacked a lot of context of plant medicine used around the world in indigenous communities and world views and cosmologies. Within his perspective of the culture at that time, psychoactive substances were outside the norm. So his caution came from not knowing how the experiences would be integrated. Within the framework Pacifica holds and depth psychology is moving toward, plant medicine and psychoactive substances are more related to the context people are already inhabiting. So it’s not something that would take them out of reality but allow them to inhabit the world. So I view his stance as contextual to his milieu and time and how potentially shattering a psychedelic experience could be to that context. But in other contexts, where plant medicine is the norm and part of interacting with the cosmos, those cautions lose their binding on depth psychological  practitioners and indigenous healers in the world today.

Angela: You beat me to my next question! Has anything changed in our understanding of these substances that might also have changed Jung’s stance on them?

Dylan: I’ll add that I think for Jung, psychedelics were “drugs” and held that sort of connotation. We’ve recognized that psychedelics have been part of human communities since forever, which reduces their perceived non-normality or being exotic or dangerous, and they become integral aspects of how you live in the world and experience it. That’s been an important step in recognizing the place plant medicines have always had in human communities.

Angela: Part of what you’ll cover in this class is how “to utilize C. G. Jung’s view of the psyche in general, and the psychoid nature of archetypes in particular, as a way to understand, navigate, and integrate psychedelic experiences.” I had to look up “psychoid,” so I’m probably not the only one who is curious about what this means. Can you speak a little about the use of archetypes in psychedelic experiences?

Dylan: “Psychoid” just means that the psyche is inseparable from and extends into the world of matter and place and cosmos. And despite his stance of psychedelics, Jung’s view of the psyche is compatible with indigenous cosmologies in which psychedelics are normal. If we look at the psyche as being structured by cosmological energies at its base, archetypes aren’t intersubjective realities but the objective basis for how things take shape in the world. Jung’s view of the psyche becomes a way to orient in that space. Part of individuation is to become conscious of and honor these archetypal dynamics, which is compatible with plant medicines and a very animated, spiritually inhabited world.

Angela: That flows into my next question! One of the ideas I often hear at Pacifica is the aliveness or soul of things, places, businesses, nature, even medical systems and governments. The intimation being that if something is alive, or holds its own energy or soul, that you can have a dialog with it; it can heal and evolve. I’m curious about the part of your lecture that will focus on ways psychedelics can “deepen and expand a depth psychological understanding of the psyche in relationship with an ensouled, animated cosmos.” What is it about conceiving of the cosmos as a living, ensouled entity that changes our ideas of what psychedelics have to offer in a therapeutic setting?

Dylan: Psychedelics are the place at which the animated cosmos is experienced. Within depth psychology, this paradigm has been fleshed out and is continuing to be fleshed out in the context of soul in the world. But it can sometimes stay stuck as an interesting, intellectual stance, an enchanting idea. But psychedelics put you in it, where you don’t have to act as if things are alive, because in a psychedelic experience, you are in an alive world. That capacity for psychedelics to open us to the experiential reality of that ensouledness and enchantedness is something that can rarely be got at in other ways. Psychedelics are ways to habituate us to that experiential reality that can sometimes continue to be abstracted as something intellectual.

Angela: Is this topic something that already figures into your own research, writing, and teaching, or is this something new that you’re developing as an academic direction?

Dylan: It’s not new personally and even as a research area that I’ve been exploring in conjunction with my other work, but with the conference and the certificate and the newly launching Psychology, Religion, and Consciousness M.A./Ph.D. (I’ll be teaching a psychedelic course for that), there are more academic spaces opening up where I can bring this work into the study of the psyche.

Angela: Who would you recommend this course to? Is it geared toward psychologists or can anyone attend and benefit from it?

Dylan: I think anyone can benefit from it as a way to understand something that has been profoundly human and present for all of our history, which puts us back into a natural, primordial, indigenous way of being human in the world. But it’s also potentially opportunity for therapists who might have been trained to think of psychedelics only from a pharmacological perspective, in which these things are viewed as treatment methods to help people stay alive in a mundane, unenchanted world. We want to push against that edge and integrate psychedelics into the cosmos, so they can understand what it’s asking of them as therapist, shifting their framework to a bigger world in which their patient’s experiences can be held in a larger container.

Angela: What are you most looking forward to in the certificate?

Dylan: I’m excited about the opportunity for Pacifica to step into this conversation more fully and to bring an archetypal and cosmological perspective into what is becoming a pharmacologically dominated paradigm, wherein psychedelics are regarded as drugs and are being used as dosages for maladies without changing the world view of the patient or client.

Angela: Thank you so much for sharing about this wonderful course!

“Psychedelics and Depth Psychology: Treatment and Transformation in an Animated Cosmos” is a  Graduate Certificate in Psychedelics and Depth Psychology that will be offered online by Pacifica Extension and International Studies June 5, 2024 – August 28th, 2024. Register now!


Angela Borda is a writer for Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as the editor of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Her work has been published in Food & Home, Peregrine, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, Delirium Corridor, Still Arts Quarterly, Danse Macabre, and is forthcoming in The Tertiary Lodger and Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Vol. 5.


Dylan Hoffman studied liberal arts at Georgetown University and psychology at Adelphi University before completing his Ph.D. in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute—concentrating in Jungian and Archetypal Studies. His work focuses on C. G. Jung’s theory of archetypes—on archetypes as the deepest nature of the psyche and how they interconnect spirit, psyche, and matter as numinous and mythic powers that animate, govern, and structure the cosmos as a whole. Dylan grounds his work in indigenous/shamanic perspectives and practices that provide a primordial, holistic, and sacred worldview within which to understand the archetypal psyche, to embody its wholeness individually, and to serve it culturally through creative imagination.